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Carter Center on Venezuela's referendum: With observers like these, who needs them?

By Miguel Octavio

Reading the audit report by the Carter Center is painful. Painful because it is sloppy, painful because it leaves a lot of material out or says things without explaining that what was done went either against the rules of the audit, an audit or the agreements made. Finally the technical aspects described are so poor and unconvincing that it makes you wonder who wrote it and if anyone approved it before releasing it. It makes you wonder if the reason that it is only available in Spanish is so that many will have no critical access to it.

Let’s look at some details:

-The report does not say that the boxes with the ballots were not under the observation of the Carter Center for over 65 hours, but goes in painstaking detail about how there were two observers from the OAS and the Center per state after that “grace” period and the like.

-The report fails to mention that the opposition requested, but was denied the opportunity to choose 50 ballot boxes to audit. This is without doubt the biggest mystery in the whole process, why didn’t the CNE allow the opposition to pick some voting centers, forcing a random sample after denying any possibility of the random sample during the petition drive to have the recall? CNE Director said in that case, he did not trust a sample and the issue was too important. Talk about a double standard, or is it a single one?

-The report mentions that 50 extra boxes were picked in case there were problems, but fails to mention that indeed there were problems and some of the boxes were actually missing and were never found!

-Why did the Carter Center fail to follow the agreement with the opposition that the random number generator supplied would be that of the center and instead, the one from the CNE was used? Moreover, all sorts of technical detail is given, but no mention it's made of how the seed was chosen. Indeed, it does mention it was the same generator used on Sunday, if it had the same seed; the sequence was exactly the same! Bruni in the comments section has been wondering about this point from day one and she was right to worry!

-The report says that ballot boxes were “in several garrisons” while the CNE assured everyone that they were in the Fuerte Tiuna military facility. The report also talks about two states where the material was still “disperse” three days after the vote!

-The other report by the Carter Center is the final report on the recall vote. It has similar problems as the audit report. It does note that on Aug. 15th, “hot audit” 192 ballot boxes were supposed to be audited, but only 82 were. Moreover, it fails to say that opposition representatives were only present in 27 of them and in those, the Si vote won 63% to 37%, despite the fact that these came from seven states in which the No had won in five. Moreover, these showed no discrepancies.

-The report fails to note that while abstention was 37% in the electronic vote, it was practically zero in the remote areas where the vote was manual, exactly the opposite of what has happened historically and what happened in this election in similar areas where machines were deployed! Any of my Chavista readers can give me a coherent and plausible explanation for this not so small anomaly?

-The report mentions in passing the problem with the total number of Si votes coinciding from center to center. However, the Carter Center continues to consider the coincidences at the level of the “mesas” (tables) and not at the center level. There is a factor of five increase in coincidences when the problem is considered at the center level. No detail was provided as to what exactly the two “foreign statisticians” looked at in their studies to say that it was a mathematical probability for this to happen.

-The report does not even get right the level of abstention, the number they give (73% of the people voting) has nothing to do with any of the numbers reported by the CNE in any of its reports.

Very sloppy reports on the part of an institution that should provide international and professional class work in a process in which attention to detail and critical analysis is crucial to the accomplishment of their goals. As the saying goes: “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” or in its new version: “With observers like these, who needs observers?”

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